One of Meier’s latest albums Breeze reflects a highly tuned, sensitive and joyously creative mind. He says: “Music describes feelings, pictures, landscape, culture. It should be taking you on a journey.” Meier grew up in a family of physicians who were “into art”. “They are,” he says “very interested in all the arts, painting, sculpture and music. They love ballet, opera and like most styles of music, including jazz. My father used to play flute and saxophone. He has a big collection of jazz LPs from Miles, Coltrane, Rollins and Jarrett, to more contemporary players like Scofield and Brecker. Every time I go home, I have the chance to discover some more music from his collection. And he is still interested to hear what’s new now and what I’m listening to. Living close to Montreux (in Switzerland), my parents regularly used to see concerts there and took me along to some of them in my teens. The first one was the Santana Group with Wayne Shorter as special guest, which I enjoyed very much. On that very first night in Montreux, there was a last minute unscheduled performance from rock guitarist Joe Satriani after Santana, which was a fantastic surprise for me as my father had just bought me his latest record Surfing With The Alien, which I fell in love with.”
Meier began with the classical guitar when he was 11, having had ‘rhythm’ classes when he was six and having tried to learn the flute when he was nine. “I started with a cheap acoustic guitar, then after a year I switched to electric. I got a Weston electric guitar from my parents which got stolen on a trip to London a few years later. Every summer when school was out, I used to work [doing electrical jobs in the state hospital] to be able to buy either a new guitar or a new amp.”
Having gone to college in Fribourg and then a music conservatoire “where I had a fantastic open minded tutor and a great guitarist named Francis Coletta,” Meier secured a place at Berklee in Boston. “I was at Berklee College of Music for three years, which was perfect because it allowed me to play many more styles. While I was still focusing on jazz, I met so many musicians from different backgrounds and I always loved to hear their music. My first band at Berklee [which was the start of the Nicolas Meier Group], included a Brazilian drummer
Juliano Zanoni, a Uruguayan pianist José Reinoso [now living in Barcelona], a French bass player called Ben Zwerin and a Spanish and a Swiss saxophonist. I have fond memories of my time at Berklee and still think about all the advice I received from my teachers.”
Meier had turned up at Berklee with his Ibanez ‘Scofield’. “I had the feeling that I had to find something more personal and that’s when I picked up my first Godin Multiac nylon acoustic guitar. It was love at first sight and I have since bought another seven models which include two Multiacs, one Fretless, one ACS [full body], one classical model, one steel string, one Multiac jazz and one Glissentar [11-string guitar, that’s like an oud]. I also have an endorsement from Godin guitars and I’m very proud to be featuring in between John McLaughlin and Steve Stevens.” He’s clearly forgotten something.
“I haven’t mentioned my trips to Turkey. I bought an oud [11 strings], a small baglama [seven strings] and a big baglama [again seven strings but with different tunings] and then finally when I was there just last week I bought this incredible electric baglama [it has all of eight strings] that I’m very excited about and which I intend to record with on the new album and play live in 2012. I use Augustine gold strings because I like their tension and feel and as for amplification “use an AER amp for my acoustic guitars,” he says. “Even for my Multiac jazz, as I believe it gives the best natural acoustic sound.”
Over the last ten years Meier has further expanded his musical horizons. “I’ve really got into oriental/world music,” he enthuses, “especially Turkish music. I love the guitarist/saz player/composer Erkan Ogur, clarinettist Hüsnü Senlendirici and the composer/singer Sezen Aksu. Also, my band members have been a major influence in shaping the music we create together with their feel, knowledge and background. Gilad Atzmon, Asaf Sirkis, Pat Bettison, José Reinoso and the trio with Demi Garcia and Paolo Minervini have all been instrumental in pushing and expanding the musical envelope. It’s a real gift to be able to play and to compose music, and it’s my great joy to finish a concert and feel that I was able to communicate with the audience and make them feel emotional about what we played.”
– David Gallant